The Wicker Man is a classic film that was made in 1973 by British director Robin Hardy. Although low budget, it was relatively successful and remains an underdog hit to this day. Most people regard this original as a masterpiece, whereas the modern remake with Nicholas Cage bombed in the box office and was not well regarded.
When the movie begins, we observe a policeman, Sergeant Howie, landing a plane at the isolated island of Summerisle. We discover that he is searching for a girl, named Rowan Morrison, who was reported missing. Things get weird pretty fast after the girl's mother claims that she never had a daughter named Rowan and none of the citizens recognize her.
Despite these claims, Howie is suspicious of the locals and continues his investigation. Over time he becomes more and more disturbed by the pagan traditions practiced on the island, including pseudoscientific ideas being taught to the children. His investigation builds to a suspenseful climax that defies expectations.
The main character of Sergeant Howie is played by Edward Woodward, someone who had done mainly television work prior to this film. Lord Summerisle is played by horror legend Christopher Lee and the seductive daughter of the innkeeper, Willow, is played by Britt Ekland. Many of the other characters in the film are locals and unknown actors.
One strange thing that you will notice about this film is that it is quite musical. There is one scene in which the innkeeper's daughter, Willow, sings a full length song while Howie listens from the adjoining room and resists the temptation to join her. There is also a lot of chanting and creepy little songs that are sung in rituals on the island.
The scenery in the film is a bit interesting and adds to the mystique of the film. The island is temperate and features rocky outcroppings that extend into the sea. The village on Summerisle is also very European with vintage architecture.
The acting in the film is pretty impressive, particularly that of Edward Woodward. He performs the part of the puritanical Christian very well and he looks truly offended when he witnesses the "godlessness" of the islanders. I also enjoyed Christopher Lee's performance, which is downright creepy and disturbing. Lastly, I thought Britt Ekland was quite seductive and beautiful in this film and was perfect for her role.
Overall, this film is worthy of five stars for its originality and great all around production. This movie provides strong evidence that low budget movies can be more enjoyable than the most expensive Hollywood productions. It will be interesting to see the remake and find out if it lives up this original.